February 26, 2017 Ogilby Road BLM Area, California

Burrowing Owl Portrait
Burrowing Owl Portrait

Finally Some Opportunities to Shoot a Few Birds

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

I drove north from my campsite on Ogilby Road to check out the Cibola NWR, a refuge I have visited twice before. The fields were green but the birdlife pretty sparse at the refuge, perhaps because the migrants have already taken wing to begin their northward migration.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

However, the Burrowing Owls were here as they usually are, and I can never resist spending some time with these diminutive ( about the size of a pigeon )  little raptors.

Anna's Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird

Back home at the campsite, the feeders I have put out are finally attracting some action, such as this male Anna’s Hummingbird,

Male Costa's Hummingbird
Male Costa’s Hummingbird

this male Costa’s Hummingbird,

Gathering Nest Material
Gathering Nest Material

this female ??? hummingbird, with spider’s silk wrapped on it’s beak,

Male Rufous Hummingbird
Male Rufous Hummingbird

and this male Rufous Hummingbird.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird

The female hummingbirds coming to the feeders far outnumber the more colorful males, although this female Rufous is fairly colorful herself.

Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
White-crowned Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

My tray feeders have attracted White-crowned Sparrows,

??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow

along with these unidentified sparrows,

??? Sparrow
??? Sparrow

plus a few House Finches and one solitary Verdin, drawn in by the oranges I put out in the tree. Unfortunately, the little Verdin has been completely uncooperative in allowing me to catch him in action.

With my dental work complete, I hope to now be able to spend some serious time attempting to get some decent Hummingbird shots.

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April 26, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

A Cool Morning in the Refuge

Frosty Morning on the Refuge
Frosty Morning on the Refuge

Temperatures dipped into the 20’s last night and it was just a bit nippy as I headed into the refuge this morning.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Frosty Morning on the Refuge Road
Frosty Morning on the Refuge Road

The chilly temps do not seem to deter the birds as they were out and about as soon as the sun peaked over the hills to the east.

Male Northern Harrier Preening
Male Northern Harrier Preening

One of the male Northern Harriers had found a perch warmed by the early sun and was performing his daily grooming ritual.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

Anyone following this blog can probably tell I have a strong fascination with the ” Gray Ghost “.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

The great Short-eared Owl shot still eludes me, though he does seem to take a certain delight in tormenting me with his distant antics.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck

Male Ruddy Ducks are now sporting their brilliant blue bills to impress the ladies.

Red-winged Blackbird
Red-winged Blackbird
Meadowlark
Meadowlark

And small birds are singing their hearts out everywhere throughout the refuge, again hoping to impress members of the opposite sex.

Meadowlark
Meadowlark
Bird on a Wire ( Kestrel )
Bird on a Wire ( Kestrel )
Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Late in the afternoon, just around sunset, I ran into this colorful male Ring-necked Pheasant along the southern portion of the refuge road. Lighting conditions were just ideal to capture the breathtaking colors of this bird, the sun was low and the soft light further diffused by clouds as the bird moved in and out of the shade at a fairly close distance from me. These conditions just make all the colors pop!

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

In this closeup, you can see every color of the rainbow on this bird. The purple around the neck is a color I had never noticed before, revealed when this bird walked into the shade.

Ring-necked Pheasant
Ring-necked Pheasant

Pretty spectacular creature, wouldn’t you agree.

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April 23, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Pintail
Pintail

Grouse Lek in the Morning, Meadows Near Burns in the Afternoon

Once again I got out really early to get to the Sage Grouse Lek before sunrise.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

Thankfully, the birds were there and doing their dance, unfortunately, the harsh lighting conditions were very similar to my last visit.

Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display
Sage Grouse Display

The forecast calls for rain in the next few days, so I shall return when there is a little better light, and will hope the grouse are still into doing this bizarre dance.

Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail
Pintail

After leaving the lek, I drove north on Route 205 to explore the farm roads around the town of Burns. Managed to catch a Pintail Duck taking off from a portion of a small roadside wet area.

Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs

These fields or meadows around Burns are usually flooded in the spring and attract all kinds of birds. This year, a flooded field is hard to find, but Jim Palmer had given me some suggestions for areas to check on, and I did find some productive spots.

A Willet in a Hurry
A Willet in a Hurry

The water I did find off Double Zero Road yielded the above shots of pintail duck, greater yellowlegs, and willet, but the drought has left precious little standing water in the area and there simply weren’t that many birds around.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl

Acting on another tip from Jim, I drove out Ruh Red Road to pole #132 to check on some burrowing owls, and they were actually there. One of the pair actually was kind enough to almost completely show himself instead of remaining below ground, with just the top of his head showing, as is usually the case with these tiny birds.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

I have driven the northern portion of the main refuge road pretty much every morning since I have been here, trying to get a good shot of one of the many male Northern Harriers here.

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, i just can’t sneak up on them as the road is made with fairly large crushed rock and therefore produces quite a loud crunching sound as you drive over it. As a result, by the time I am close enough to get off a shot, I am usually shooting at a bird’s butt, or they drop down in the bunch grass or cat tails and are hidden from view. I’m starting to think I’m just not going to get that one great ” Gray Ghost ” shot I initially really thought I would get here.

Tree Swallows
Tree Swallows

These tree swallows aren’t put off by the road noise though.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

And speaking of bird butts and frustration, there is this guy, a beautiful Short-eared Owl who I meet up with every day at the same place on the refuge road, yet just can’t get a shot of him. This is one of the few owls who hunt by day, but he too, always hears me coming and heads off before I can get close enough for a good shot.

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

 

 

 

 

 

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Every morning, and some afternoons, he is sitting on the same bush, just taunting me, and I now must admit, I believe he has gotten the better of me. At least I have some painting reference shots.

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April 18, 2015 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Exploring the Refuge and My ” Guide ” Arrives

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

I drove the refuge main road again this morning and once again found the pair of Short-eared Owls, though they remained just out of range,

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

 

 

 

 

 

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

once again found several Northern Harriers, including the elusive Gray Ghost,

Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Male Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier

plus a Canada goose family with five goslings, along Buena Vista Pond.

Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family
Canada Goose Family

Probably one of the reasons these guys have become so numerous, and become such a pest, is because they are such good, protective parents.

Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird
Red-wing Blackbird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are all kinds of small birds along the road, such as Magpies, Meadowlarks, and many, many Red-headed Blackbirds, singing up a storm.

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

I made a quick run up to Burns to fill up the Prius and grab some groceries, and on my return south on Route 205, I saw this Ferruginous Hawk taking off just off the side of the road, another first time bird for me.

Jim Palmer arrived around 3 PM and we talked for a couple of hours and then decided to go out to check on the Sage Grouse lek off Foster Flat Road around 6 PM. We saw a few at twilight but they were too far off, and there just wasn’t enough light to shoot. I definitely will return to this location for what is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Jim is a long time gifted wildlife photographer I met in Yellowstone National park a couple years back and he had graciously agreed to meet me here and show me the ropes, as he has been photographing here at Malhuer for many years. There is a lot of ground to cover here at Malhuer and it will be nice to have someone to show me where everything is ( or might be, I should say ).

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